“Vein”, Am I?

“Serving up, bro!” shouted Xylo in an unusually shrill voice. “Tone it down, will you, mate?” came the quick gruff retort from Phlo, “I got a load of supplies lined up in arrears already”. Murmurs and low sighs emanated from several cells around even as they continued with their duties – nothing new there, these two were born blabbermouths.

Xylo was a xylem cell while Phlo was a phloem cell, both close neighbours at the base of a leaf somewhere high up along the creeper of a sweet potato plant. Despite working incessantly on the heavy traffic of fluid pulsating through the veins, these two never let a chance to rib each other and indulge in random banter.

“You will never acknowledge our eminence, will you, Phlo”, Xylo could barely be heard over the gush of fluids, “We bring in all the water, minerals and essential nutrients right up from the roots, so that our poor chloroplast brothers can do their photosynthesis bit – there they’re nodding in agreement”, continued Xylo, pointing randomly at some imaginary cells doffing their hats, “See what happened this morning; Sunny boy was shining so bright, they were shouting hoarse for water – almost spilled out their chlorophyll, didn’t they? And when rootlet R578 finally found this cool new stream of water who brought it up here, this burst of chilled liquid delight flowing up? We man, we!”

“Oh yeah”, drawled Phlo, pausing to wipe the sugary drizzle off his cellulose cell wall, “And pray tell me, what use is all this water and your divine minerals if we do not take these sugars, hormones and xyzxzyyxzzxy* (*top secret byproducts – they which cannot be named) from these chloroplast fellers and out to them flowers and stems for storage? You gonna handle the situation then?” Phlo continued, bent on going one-up, “And do not forget, we are bidirectional – we can carry the fluids in either direction, from the leaves to the stores and when required from the stores to the buds – not like you, flowing only from the root to the leaves!”

“Hold on bro. Who do you think makes this plant stand? It is we, with the lignin thickened walls that provide internal support and strength and make the plant resistant to bending! Are you even aware that our dead cells actually form the wood of trees?” Xylo was not to be eclipsed, “And look who is talking? It is because of you that aphids infest the underside of these poor leaves, where you flow with all your icky sticky sugary fluids, attracting them!”

“Hold it”, blasted the rasping voice of signalling molecule RT27A passing through, causing both Xylo and Phlo to sit up startled. “At attention, both of you, stop it at once and acknowledge command to modify flow rates due to the emergency at stomata S993 – poor fellow has issues with one of his guard cells – and here you are you nincompoops, flourishing your vanity”.

“Yeah, yeah, do we not know who is more accomplished”, echoed the sentiments of both Xylo and Phlo as they returned to tackle the mini emergency.

– Narendra Nayak © 2017

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